Lately, life with “the girls” has been anything but dull! In mid-June, our six Rhode Island Red’s came down with a mysterious illness that claimed the life of one, and left the remaining five fighting for their lives. I consulted “Google”, while husband, Ed, visited our local feed & seed store, in search of remedies for our poor hens. After a week of medication, plus lots of TLC, the girls appeared to finally be on the road to recovery. Then a new problem began to present itself!
The new problem began when I started noticing a few loose feathers in the chicken coop. My first thought was, Oh, it’s molting time! Each day I’d notice a few more lost feathers, but I then began noticing that all of the feathers seemed to be coming from only one hen! Before I knew it, this particular hen was missing her tail feathers, as well as most of the feathers underneath her. Uh oh! I knew we had a problem!
Once again, I turned to trusty “Google” for answers. After reading a bit, then observing the hens scratching themselves more than usual, I determined that my girls had contracted a case of parasites! I had no idea what kind of parasite the hens had, but it really didn’t matter since treatment is the same for lice and mites.
I began by trying to ‘dust’ the hens. You’ll notice I said “trying”. Normally, “the girls” are very friendly, and I’ve never had any problems sprinkling dust on them in the past, for preventative maintenance. However, two weeks of illness had taken its toll on them, and they were no longer friendly and trusting. I dusted them the best I could, which was basically throwing dust toward them, then I dusted their hen-house.
I watched and waited a couple of days, but noticed the hens continued to scratch, and feathers were still falling out. Apparently, it was time for Plan B. I sprayed the hen-house with insect spray, dusted the floor, nests, and perches with powder, then I waited until nightfall. As soon as it was dark outside, Ed and I headed for the hen-house. Ed picked up the hens, one at a time, and held them, while I liberally dusted each one with insect power. “The girls” definitely didn’t seem to enjoy being held and dusted, and some even put up quite a fight!
Again, I watched and waited. Almost immediately, feathers stopped falling! Over the course of a couple of days, their scratching subsided. Mission accomplished! Now we just have to wait for “Sister” to regrow all of her missing feathers! Fortunately, the loss of feathers hasn’t seemed to bother her one bit, and thankfully, the others haven’t seemed to notice her bare spots!
I blame the infestation of parasites on a couple of things. First of all, the conditions here are VERY WET, and have been for weeks. There hasn’t been a dry spot in their coop for ages. Chickens need to be able to dust themselves to control parasites. It’s hard to dust your feathers in MUD. I also believe our hens’ previous illness may have been a contributing factor. I know from experience, a critter’s immune system plays a part in how well their bodies deal with parasites.
All’s well that ends well. “The girls” are back to their normal, happy selves–for now. Their appetites are nearly back to normal, and they are continuing to gain back the weight they lost while sick. They’re beginning to get friendly again. Egg production has continued, and egg size is getting back to normal. Their egg count? As of yesterday, 1404. It’s been exactly a year since they first began laying eggs. To be continued… I’m sure!